Last Wednesday, December 7, was the 75th anniversary of the “date which will live in infamy,” the Japanese surprise attack on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. It was a day of patriotic pride for veterans across the country – a day to remember one of the most calamitous and defining moments in American history.
The folks at the Summit Place senior living community on Daniel Island recognized the significance of the anniversary with a commemorative event entitled “A Veteran’s Patriotic Message to the Future.” The program had two components – one that was dedicated to the past and another that looked to the future. The Summit Place leadership team unveiled an impressive display at their facility, a new “Veterans Wall of Honor,” and also sunk a time capsule into a space behind the wall not to be opened until November 11, 2066, on Veterans Day fifty years from now.
The new 21-foot by six-foot Veterans Wall of Honor display recognizes the many veterans of the U.S. military who currently and in years past made their home at Summit Place. Over a dozen of the facility’s veterans, who served our country in times of war and peace all the way back to World War II, were on hand for the unveiling, an event that induced both cheers and tears.
Attending the ceremony were veterans like 91-year-old Jack Gleason, a U.S. Navy communications officer who served on a base in the Pacific on the Marshall Islands from 1942 to 1945. Said Gleason of his time in the Pacific, “I was there to see the beginning of the end of the Japanese empire.” Dorothy “Dottie” Pike was in attendance at the program, too. Pike was a U.S. Army Nurse who served in 1945.
The display was the idea of Summit Place Maintenance Director and Vietnam veteran Dan Gordon. A Navy man with patriotism “in his blood,” Gordon comes from a long line of American military men that dates back to the Revolutionary War. He not only headed up the team that organized and planned the installation but also served as the master of ceremonies for the event.
“This is an extremely exciting day,” noted Gordon, as he introduced himself to the folks gathered for the occasion. “Today we are commemorating the start of World War II with the attack on Pearl Harbor, but we’re also remembering our veterans who served and not just in World War II but in all the different wars after that as well. I’m excited that we’re going to be able to honor you all with this wall that we’re dedicating today. It’s been a long time coming.”
The wall itself spans a large section of one of the facility’s main hallways. It features a center display with a framed U.S. flag dedicated to Summit Place by US. Army Veteran Sgt. William Westberg. Around the exhibit are branch of service plaques honoring each of the five branches of the U.S. military. Above the display are the words “Duty, Honor, Country,” and flanking each side are over a dozen framed photographs of current and past Summit Place veterans.
Each photo is labeled with the service person’s name, branch of the military in which he or she served, rank and years served, and on the corner of each is a small hook from which current Summit Place veterans hung commemorative dog tags made for the event. Veterans living at the facility were each issued a pair of dog tags, one for hanging beside their picture on the wall and one to keep.
Following an official presentation of the colors and a collective reading of the Pledge of Allegiance, a prayer of dedication by pastor B.H. Rader from interdenominational North Charleston church Cathedral, and a reading from the World War II non-fiction book “Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from World War II” delivered by Summit Place resident and military widow Mabel Ward, the group arrived at the much-anticipated moment of the unveiling.
In addition to current veterans at Summit Place, family members of deceased veterans who had lived at the facility were invited to hang dog tags on the respective branch of service plaque.
Following the ceremony, Gordon set to the task of sealing the time capsule in the wall. The capsule was actually a trio of .30 caliber munitions boxes inside which the community was invited to place pictures, notes, and other small items of meaning for future generations to discover. Contributors signed messages on the inside of the metal covering that locked the munitions boxes inside the wall, and the time capsule was sealed.
“I probably will not be here but I’m excited that we’re able to create this patriotic message for the future, and with our country the way it is right now with so many different divisions I think it’s important that we plant seeds into the future,” said Gordon.
Following a moving rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” by Bishop England student and singer Elizabeth Ludlam that left some of the vets in attendance saluting and some wiping tears from their wrinkled cheeks, it was Summit Place Administrator Sean Davis who took to the microphone to wrap up the afternoon’s commemoration ceremony.
“This runs deep for many reasons and rightfully so,” said Davis. “We’re recognizing a lot of folks in our community and on a really important day…The nice thing about our community is that we are supported by the large Daniel Island community in so many ways, whether its partnerships for this or with Bishop England.”
“In senior living, you talk in terms of community,” continued Davis. “Having worked in other places I can say that community legitimately exists here. It’s Bishop England, it’s the Daniel Island Academy, it’s the moms with the baby joggers who come off the sidewalks to say hi to our folks, people walking their dogs who come in, that’s what it’s all about.”
In closing, Davis also thanked the Daniel Island Rotary Club and the Daniel Island Community Fund for their support of the project, and also North Charleston printing company Fast Signs for donating the labor in creating the display.